Puducherry has become a source of pirated copies of new films, which makes it look like one can avoid going to theatres

That Puducherry has become a source of pirated copies of new films for the markets in Tamil Nadu has become a cause for concern. Whether a film gets released in a certain region or not, organised piracy groups are able to flood the market with such fine prints of new movies. Within a few hours of any release, copies reach several households in Puducherry and from where pirated copies flood Chennai and other cities and towns in Tamil Nadu.

In fact, Puducherry is probably one of the few places where a person can find a dedicated CD/DVD bazaar.

With just Rs. 25, anyone can walk into the bazaar and buy pirated copies of the latest Tamil, English, Malayalam and Hindi films. The open sale of pirated DVDs on Anna Salai and a few other locations in Puducherry shows that the pirates do not fear the police or law.

No anti-piracy wing

Tough and sustained action by the enforcement authorities in Tamil Nadu against video pirates is cited as a reason for the thriving illegal business in Puducherry. Non-existence of a dedicated anti-video piracy wing in Puducherry on the lines of Tamil Nadu is also believed to be a reason for the success of such an illegal endeavour.

Says P. Sowmya (26), a resident of Bangalore: “Whenever my friends and I visit Puducherry, we shop for DVDs of new movies. Some of my friends used to come to Puducherry during weekends and invariably return with copies of new films – Tamil and English. Quality is pretty good.”

Interaction with various exhibitors in Puducherry reveals that the number of persons involved in the illegal business here will not be less than 500. This is in addition to the network of a chief wholesale agent, area-wise distributors and wholesale traders in Tamil Nadu.

Many of the video pirates in Puducherry are believed to have mass production units with state-of-the-art gadget and equipment that make several copies of CDs/DVDs simultaneously and produce thousands of electronic prints from the master copy of downloaded films within a couple of days. They route it through Chennai to Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, industry sources say.

Not a new phenomenon

The menace of video piracy is not a new phenomenon. It first started in the 1980s when the concept of video cassette libraries was introduced. Video libraries that began renting out original prints and master copies slowly switched to circulating latest films captured using ordinary video cameras, popularly known as ‘camera prints,’ to cash in on the huge demand for new films.

Says Kumar (38), a former resident of Rainbow Nagar: “As a little boy, I remember elders bringing home camera prints of newly-released movies. The rent of an original print used to be Rs. 10 to Rs. 12 for 24 hours. But, some libraries charged Rs. 25 for a new film, just for three hours. If we failed to return it within three hours, we would be asked to pay another Rs. 25. Some libraries would send even VCRs and VCPs on a rent of Rs. 50 to Rs. 100 a day. Movies, new and old, would be brought home along with VCRs. It used to be big business.”

Dubai connection

Uma, a retired teacher, says: “Originally, some video library owners used to say that producers of some old movies had also not given video rights for their films, and hence, those films were not available. But, they would be able to get prints of those films from Tiruchi, which was surprising to me. When I worked for a while in Karaikkal in the early 1990s, I found that it was a major source of pirated video prints of new movies. Some of those camera prints were of good quality too. Several residents of Karaikal had connections in Dubai, and access to original video prints released there. Copies of those cassettes flooded the market here, affecting the business of theatres which would still be running the same movies.”

Lack of strict law enforcement

In the absence of strict enforcement, video piracy has taken deep roots here. In fact, a large number of local television channels, many of them operating allegedly without mandatory permission, telecast new films regularly on the cable network.

According to police sources, not many have been booked under the Goondas Act for video piracy in recent years.

N. Anandu, organiser, All-India Ilaya Thalapathi Vijay Narpani Iyakkam, says the illegal industry, which was casually started by a few unemployed persons in places such as Orleanpet in Puducherry, has grown manifold. “It has become almost a household activity in several parts of Puducherry. At least 10 to 15 per cent of those with a computer are being lured by illegal operators for taking copies of CD/DVDs. A robust technology to prevent piracy of new films and strict laws to curb the distribution of pirated discs alone will save the film industry,” he says.

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